Gators try to cure road woes

The numbers all look good for Florida on paper -- the record, the RPI, the strength of schedule -- but there’s still one negative that sticks out.

The Gators are 4-6 on the road.

Florida (28-10, 9-6 SEC) was at home for its first five series of the year, but it has lost both road series in Southeastern Conference play. Two weeks ago at Missouri, the Gators looked to have conquered their road woes by winning the first game in what was one of their most complete games of the year. However, they followed it by scoring four total runs and dropping the final two games.

The first road series came at Ole Miss in front of big crowds, and the Florida offense fell silent, scoring three runs in the first two games of the series before breaking out for eight runs in a win in the series finale.

In true road games during the midweek, Florida is 2-2. The most recent of those games came in a 4-3 loss in 12 innings at Florida State on Tuesday.

This is a good time to remember the youth on the Florida roster. Of the 33 players on the Florida roster, 23 of them are freshmen or sophomores. It wouldn’t be a surprise for this year’s take to take a similar trajectory on the road to what last year’s team did.

In 2014, a team relying heavily on freshmen started the year 5-7 in road games. However, they went 7-1 over their final eight SEC road games, including series wins at South Carolina and Tennessee while sweeping the series at Alabama. The one road game of the final eight that the Gators lost came in the final game of the regular season. Kevin O’Sullivan benched many regulars that day since Florida already clinched the SEC title.

That late-season run on the road started over the final three SEC road series. This week, Florida heads to Starkville to take on Mississippi State in the first of three road series remaining.

For teams relying on underclassmen, playing on the road in college is a learned skill. The Gators learned it last year down the stretch and have to do start it this weekend at Mississippi State in front of what should be large crowds since the Bulldogs are also hosting their spring football game on Saturday.

The Gators need a road series win to continue building their NCAA Tournament resume, hoping for a top-eight national seed that would keep them in Gainesville until a potential berth in the College World Series. Florida is 23-3 this season and has been a much different team when playing at McKethan Stadium.

Florida will start ace Logan Shore (5-2, 2.16) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. against Mississippi State left-hander Lucas Laster (4-2, 2.52). On Saturday at 3 p.m., the Gators will send right-hander Dane Dunning (4-1, 3.19) to the mound against Bulldogs sophomore Austin Sexton (3-3, 3.52). The series wraps up on Sunday at 3 p.m., but Florida hasn’t announced a starting pitcher to face Mississippi State junior Preston Brown (5-3, 3.81).

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